January 20, 2010

News & Opinion: The Marketplace of Ideas

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:00 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The best part of working at 800-CEO-READ, other than the lovely and intelligent people surrounding me, is the amount of lovely and intelligent books surrounding me. We are all ridiculously fortunate here to be able to pick up random books at random moments throughout the day and see if they speak to us. Most don't, but the ones that do... oh, the ones that do. It is a marketplace of ideas, except, you know, they're all free. Imagine Adam Smith and Karl Marx getting together for a beer with Santa Claus... it's kind of like that. Today I happened upon Louis Menand's new book from W.W. Norton, Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. It was just sitting there on a table, not even a business book, not all that attractively designed, but looked like it might have some gems in it—and, boy howdy, did it! I'd like to share the first paragraph of that book with you:
Knowledge is our most important business. The success of almost all our other business depends on it, but its value is not only economic. The pursuit, production, dissemination, application, and preservation of knowledge are the central activities of a civilization. Knowledge is social memory, a connection to the past; and it is social hope, an investment in the future. The ability to create knowledge and put it to use is the adaptive characteristic of humans. It is how we reproduce ourselves as social beings and how we change—how we keep our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds.
I'd just like to highlight that first sentence and a half once more: "Knowledge is our most important business. The success of almost all our other business depends on it..." That could be the motto of our company (any company, really).